The Rise of the Chief Information Officer

Jeff SelingoAuthor and journalist Jeffrey J. Selingo notes in The Rise of the Chief Innovation Officer in Higher Education (January 2018) that innovation is increasingly critical for higher education. Many higher education institutions have made it a high priority to foster and manage change, establishing offices for innovation. But these institutions are still in the early days of figuring out how to enable it. Innovation typically comes from the bottom up, in ad hoc initiatives and pockets of deliberate change efforts in everything from curriculum planning to advising and lifelong learning.

A chief innovation officer, writes Selingo, can play a crucial role in harnessing these initiatives and fostering purposeful innovation efforts. The CIO is “someone who can coordinate disparate projects from across campus and build a systems approach to change management,” he writes. He or she can harness the will for change that may have begun with course-level efforts, such as flipped classes and MOOCs, and find ways to enable more systemic innovations.

He cites the experience at Boston University as an example of this, quoting Chris Dellarocas, Boston University’s Associate Provost for Digital Learning & Innovation and Richard C. Shipley Professor of Management at the Questrom School of Business. Dellarocas notes that early efforts aimed at developing MOOCS and other courseware innovations elevated awareness of new teaching innovation ideas and allowed new ideas to blossom at BU.

Selingo warns that innovation practices can get stuck in organizational silos. Involvement and coordination with financial and administrative constituents is critical to building fluid approaches to innovation, he writes. He also suggests that leaders of learning and innovation groups can help shift the campus culture to encourage the creation and adoption of new ideas. He points to BU’s Digital Education Incubator as an example an “internal consultancy,” an organization acting as a “catalyst, sponsor, and a codeveloper of experiments and pilots.” DEI, headed by Romy Ruukel under Dellarocas’ direction, now has more than 40 projects either completed or ongoing. It serves as a strategic partner and resource to help the university energize and guide purposeful innovations.

 

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